Dorothea Brande’s classic “Becoming a Writer” must have been one of the first books to address writer’s problems from a mindset point of view. She herself was an associate editor in a magazine where her primary job was to edit and criticize fiction stories and manuscripts passing her desk.
In the Introduction of “Becoming a Writer”, Brande acknowledges that the writer has to learn to write. Her apprenticeship involved reading every book on fiction that she could get her hands on. She devoured various techniques of fiction, plotting, and character development among others. She learnt by writing, and living and talking with “practicing writers.”
Although she believed herself to be well acquainted with the problems that writers experience, it wasn’t until she started teaching fiction writing that she realized amateur writers face problems long before they entered a fiction classroom. Naive writers believed that the solution was in learning some new technical aspect of writing to solve their problems.
Brande believed that writers’ problems were related to internal and mind matters, and that writers could learn how to overcome these problems. She did not subscribe to that only geniuses could be writers. Instead she draws an analogy between learning to write with students of engineering learning to become engineers. The point is, we can learn to write. Writing is not as magical as we think it to be.
Brande surmised that it was problems of confidence, self-respect and freedom that led to issues related to
- Getting started to write,
- Losing heart while writing,
- Writing good sometimes and badly at other times, and
- Writing one book “brilliantly” but no other books.
“Becoming a Writer” is a book of hope. One that will help us overcome self-doubt. Brande discusses the kinds of habits of thought and action that will stall your progress and the internal forces that undermine your confidence. She offers exercises to harness the writer’s mind and heart, some of which are similar to meditation.
Brande’s book and the exercises within are suitable for amateur writers. Its place is in helping the amateur writer to address mindset problems before he turns to the technical and creative aspects of writing. “Becoming a Writer” will always be that one true classic that all writers should read and take action on.